Babson Collaborative Students Provide New Life for Afghan Refugee

Fatema Jalaly poses for a photo in front of a building.

When the Taliban seized control over Afghanistan in the summer of 2021, Fatema Jalaly, member of the Babson Collaborative Student Network (BCSN), reached out to her peers around the world with expressions of fear and despair.

“The arrival of the Taliban was one of the nightmares I never imagined I would see one day, because I knew my body and soul would be destroyed with all my hopes and dreams,” Jalaly said. “My mother always says, ‘Even in the worst days, never give up—the heaviest and most beautiful rains always come from the darkest clouds.’ ”

Launched in January 2021, seven months before the fall of the Afghan republic, the BCSN is a forum for select student leaders from colleges and universities that are members of the Babson Collaborative for Entrepreneurship Education.

Comprising 32 member institutions around the world, the Babson Collaborative membership includes Universidad del Desarrollo in Chile, also known as UDD, and American University of Afghanistan, also known as AUAF, where Jalaly completed her bachelor’s degree in May.

When the Taliban captured Afghanistan’s capital city of Kabul on August 15, UDD students utilized their connections in the Babson Collaborative network, which helped facilitate Jalaly’s safe evacuation from Afghanistan to Chile some 10,000 miles away.

“By the arrival of Taliban, we lost many things in Afghanistan,” Jalaly said. “We lost freedom, democracy, peace, education, and many humanitarian values. Nothing remains there to miss except my dear family and my friends.”

Coordinating Rescue Mission Overseas

UDD student Joaquín González, one of the school’s four student ambassadors to the BCSN, said he saw the chaotic situation in Kabul on television and sent a WhatsApp message on August 16 in the BCSN group conveying his love and best wishes to the four AUAF ambassadors in Afghanistan, which included Jalaly.

“Fatema responded in the chat totally hopeless, saying that her life, her dreams, and future are gone,” González said. “I totally felt that, so I direct messaged her to ask how I can help her, and she replied that she needed to leave the Taliban’s country as soon as possible, that she had buried all of her documents to hide them from the Taliban, that they are searching house by house (for) people who are working with organizations or the former government.”

That prompted UDD’s four ambassadors to BCSN—González, Nicolás Castellón, Magdalena Irribarren, and Felipe Sanzana—to find a way to help their fellow ambassadors from Afghanistan.

González—a 2019 winner of the Babson Collaborative Global Student Challenge for developing a venture that delivers emergency information to firefighters in the shortest possible time—said UDD’s student ambassadors felt compelled to help their Afghan counterparts.

“The meaning of the Babson Collaborative Student Network is to literally collaborate with people from the network to build a better world, even if that means coordinating a rescue mission to evacuate them from danger.”
Joaquín González, BCSN ambassador, Universidad del Desarrollo (Chile)

“The meaning of the Babson Collaborative Student Network is to literally collaborate with people from the network to build a better world,” González said, “even if that means coordinating a rescue mission to evacuate them from danger.”

The UDD ambassadors contacted former and current Chilean officials to help persuade Chile’s government to support the cause. The Chilean BCSN team also kept in constant communication with Babson Collaborative Director Jamie Kendrioski, the ambassadors said.

Babson Cultivates Global Network

Founded in 2016, the Babson Collaborative for Entrepreneurship Education is a global institutional membership organization within the Babson Academy, featuring 32 member schools from 21 countries, including Afghanistan, Chile, and the United States.

The Collaborative promotes Babson’s signature method of teaching entrepreneurial leadership around the world and provides member institutions with opportunities for experiential learning through direct engagement with Babson faculty and other member institutions. The Collaborative also offers specific programming for students at member schools, such as the BCSN and the annual Global Student Challenge, in which students compete in a feasibility analysis of a new business concept that addresses one or more of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals adopted by the United Nations.

When the Taliban took over the Afghan presidential palace, fellow UDD student ambassador Irribarren communicated strategic and critical information with the BCSN ambassadors in Afghanistan, while UDD student ambassador Castellón reached out to classmates Tomás Ffrench-Davis and José Ignacio Aracena.

Ffrench-Davis and Aracena won the 2021 Babson Collaborative Global Student Challenge earlier this year for their startup Kellun, an organization and app that helps connect volunteers, donors, social initiatives, non-government organizations and enterprises to help people in need.

Castellón coordinated a fundraising campaign with Kellun to secure economic resources intended to help evacuate at-risk women from Afghanistan. This allowed the venture to secure financing that helped Jalaly flee Afghanistan to pursue continuing education and opportunities that were no longer accessible or possible in Afghanistan, according to the UDD ambassadors and Kendrioski.

“This story reflects the power of the BCSN, a global network of students with an eagerness to learn from others, a willingness to teach others, and a vision to help create a tomorrow that is better than today,” Kendrioski said. “I speak on behalf of the Babson Academy when I say how proud we are of all the BCSN student ambassadors who worked together to accomplish this incredible feat, and how inspired we are by this demonstration of the power of entrepreneurial leadership.”

The Long Journey

Most of the four AUAF ambassadors had resources to pursue safety on their own without Babson College connections, but Jalaly found herself with no apparent path to peace and prosperity except one: her BCSN peers in Chile.

Fatema Jalaly in Afghanistan
Fatema Jalaly, a member of the Babson Collaborative Student Network, thanks her Chilean peers for helping her flee Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.

In seeking to escape, Jalaly learned that an evacuation from Hamid Karzai International Airport would be too risky and heeded a warning to leave the airport before the infamous August 26 terrorist attack that killed 13 U.S. military service members and dozens of Afghan civilians, according to the UDD ambassadors.

Meanwhile, the Chilean government agreed to accept refugees from Afghanistan as the UDD students lobbied the government to make sure Jalaly would be included. Jalaly’s evacuation began in early September as she boarded a bus that transported her across Afghanistan from Kabul to Herat. Then, on September 10, Jalaly received permission to cross the border into Iran because of the BCSN and Chilean efforts to secure an Iranian visa for her, the UDD ambassadors said.

After arriving in Iran, Jalaly continued her long journey through several international flights until landing in Santiago, Chile, on September 17, according to the UDD ambassadors and Chilean news accounts.

New Beginnings Abroad

Settling into her new life in Chile, Jalaly has no regrets.

“I left my family behind to follow my goals and dreams in a safe country,” she said. “It makes me sad and depressed to think that my family is far away from me and what good days we had together, but when I think about my goals, why I left my country, I feel better.”

These new beginnings have presented new challenges for Jalaly, who said she sometimes encounters “culture shock, but I also learn new skills and learn more about myself here” in Latin America. “I want to continue my education, working in a good place, starting again my humanitarian activities, and be an independent Afghan woman,” she added.

Striving to learn Spanish through an online language course, Jalaly said she is grateful to her BCSN peers in Chile for providing “a window of hope for me.”

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